62 years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education, school segregation still persists in a negative way. U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott (ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee) and John Conyers (ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine racial and socioeconomic integration in schools. Earlier this year, the White House announced a new grant program, Stronger Together, that seeks to improve socioeconomic integration in high-poverty, racially isolated schools. Nearly a half-century of research has shown the harmful effects of school segregation on academic achievement, student outcomes, high school completion rates, college attendance rates and occupational decisions later in life.
Earlier this week, the GAO released a report and found that America's public schools are still segregated by race and class. What’s more troubling is that segregation in public K-12 schools is rapidly worsening. The report shows that more than 20 million students of color now attend racially and socioeconomically isolated public schools. That is up from under 14 million students in 2001. The report also confirms that high-poverty, racially isolated schools are under-resourced and over-disciplined. Students attending these schools are less likely to have access to college preparatory curriculum such as AP/IB coursework and more likely to be suspended or expelled. It creates a school-to-prison pipeline rather than exposing children to resources and social networks that will enable them to succeed in life. Simply, the GAO found that our nation’s public schools are separate, and they are unequal.
“This GAO report confirms what has long been feared and proves that current barriers against educational equality are eerily similar to those fought during the civil rights movement,” said Rep. John Conyers. “There simply can be no excuse for allowing educational apartheid in the 21st century. Congress and the federal government, as well as state and local agencies, must ensure all children receive access to equal education at all publicly funded schools.” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said, “The findings of GAO confirm what we know to be true: that the promise of Brown remains a promise that has gone largely unfulfilled.”
What can you do? Call your representative and support the bill, HR 5260, the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (co-sponsored by Scott and Conyers) to empower parents and communities to address – through robust enforcement – racial inequities in public education. This bill would amend Title VI (education) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars any entity that receives federal dollars from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin, by restoring the individual right of action (lawsuit) in cases involving disparate impact. The bill would also create an assistant secretary of education to proactively monitor and enforce compliance with Title VI, and support newly required school district Title VI monitors.
School integration is not only a moral imperative; it is also an economic necessity. Too many children in high-poverty, racially-isolated schools are steered into low-paying jobs that perpetuates intergnerational poverty. race and poverty continue to be driver for inequities in education and that housing segregation patterns contribute to school segregation. It doesn't have to be this way. School integration benefits everyone, including white children (reduces prejudice and bias, greater awareness of different cultures; and ability to work with diverse populations). Help fulfill the promise of Brown.